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No. 7: June 1979

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The Moon And Life

There are so many examples of lunar rhythms in terrestrial life that we tend to assume that these phenomena are understood. Obviously, evolution "created" these rhythms to further the cause of each moon-tuned organism. Palmer and Goodenough recount the classic example of the lunar synchronism of the palolo worm and add the even-more-amazing tale of P. megalops, another marine worm. Sure enough, the moon-modulated matings of these worms seem to improve reproductive efficiency.

Less well known are many other moon-synchronous biological rhythms; viz., the sizes of the pits dug by ant lions to trap ants and the angles flatworms assume in swimming away from light. Many such lunar rhythms apparently have no adaptive value whatsoever. So, why do they exist? Even more disconcerting is the fact that lunar rhythms persist in the lab where the moon is not visible. Are internal clocks responsible here? If so, how do they work and how are they set? These questions are hard to answer if the rhythms have no value to the organism's success.

(Palmer, John D., and Goodenough, Judith E.; "Mysterious Monthly Rhythms," Natural History, 87:64, December 1978.)

Comment. It would, or course, be outright heresy to suggest that heavenly bodies may be the sources of unrecognized but biologically significant forces.

Reference. Correlations of lunar phase and disturbed human behavior are cataloged at BHB4 in: Biological Anomalies: Humans I. Further information on this book is located at: here.

From Science Frontiers #7, June 1979. 1979-2000 William R. Corliss